The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) confirmed on Thursday that some of the 14 children who died after being injected with a controversial anti-dengue vaccine last year have presented signs of dying from “severe dengue”.
The DOH pulled Dengvaxia, a vaccine produced by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, from the shelves last month after learning it can, in some cases, increase the risk of severe dengue for the recipient.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) confirmed that some of the deaths of the children who received the vaccine were caused by dengue shock syndrome, with their symptoms of plasma leakage and severe bleeding in the lungs, heart, kidney and liver being consistent with the syndrome, the Philippine Star reported.
“PAO exhumed the bodies of the children and, so far, the indication is that their deaths were consistent with dengue shock syndrome,” Duque was quoted as saying by the Philippine Star.
Dengvaxia was introduced to the Philippine market last year as the world’s first vaccination programme for preventing dengue fever.
But despite receiving several warnings from health advocates within the country who believed there hadn’t been enough research into the possible adverse side effects of the vaccine, the program went ahead as planned and immunised more than 830,000 school children, the Straits Times reported.
In December, the French pharmaceutical company responsible for creating the vaccine released data from a six year study showing that people who received the treatment, but who had not previously contracted dengue fever, were at an increased risk of having “more cases of severe disease” in the future.
The Philippine government has since been investigating any possible links between the school kids who received Dengvaxia last year and the ones who have died in the months following their vaccination.
Approximately 400 million people will contract dengue fever each year, though around 25,000 people will die from the hemorrhagic fevers brought on by the virus.
Sanofi offered a statement in response to the claims that their drug may be responsible for the deaths of the Filipino children who have died after receiving Dengaxia, saying: “Up to this date, there has been no death established to have been causally linked to the dengue vaccine, not even among the 40,000 people involved in clinical trials conducted across 15 countries.”